There is a long list of different medical conditions that can be directly linked to erectile dysfunction and related problems. Most of these are diseases of the cardiovascular system that have an impact on the circulation of blood throughout the body. No matter what is the exact influence the condition has, it usually comes down to decreasing the blood flow in one way or another. So, does the same go for diabetes? Can it cause erectile dysfunction? What are some risks and what can you do to prevent potential issues from manifesting?

What’s on this page?

Diabetes and erectile dysfunction – statistics

When considering the correlation between diabetes and impotence, we can start with some of the most general studies. It has been shown that, when age is not considered, the prevalence of impotence in healthy men is around 26%, while this number is between 35% and 75% in men diagnosed with diabetes.1 Just this fact speaks volumes on the topic – there is a clear and direct link between diabetes and ED. And this is based on a complex chain on biological and bio-physical reactions within the body that usually accompany diabetes.

What’s more, of all men suffering from diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, at least 75% of them will experience some kind of difficulty with gaining and maintaining an erection within their lifetimes. This problem, it would seem, gets only more prominent with age, as the studies have shown that 95% of men diagnosed with diabetes aged 70 or more will be affected by impotence.2

How does diabetes cause impotence?

The biggest problem when it comes to ED and diabetes is the fact that not only can diabetes type 2 cause problems with impotence, but it can also lead to other conditions which function, in their own way, as additional risk factors. Those conditions include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Various heart diseases
  • Elevation in blood lipids or cholesterol (can be an unrelated condition)

But, if we leave all these additional problems related to diabetes aside3, we can shortly describe how diabetes, in itself, can lead to ED problems.

Diabetes denotes a group of metabolic disorders that lead to elevated levels of sugars in the blood over prolonged periods of time. These conditions double the risk of other, more serious cardiovascular conditions and also cause damage to blood vessels over time. This damage to blood vessels is at the root of a majority of complications caused by diabetes, including ED.

Understanding the diabetes-impotence relation: a note on blood vessels

So far, we mentioned that diabetes can damage blood vessels, but how exactly does that cause impotence? First of all, it’s important to note that this is just the most noticeable cause of ED in men diagnosed with diabetes – if we were to take an in-depth look at this question, we would need to pay attention to a series of complex interactions related not only to blood vessels but also to nerves and muscles.

But, blood vessel damage is the most direct link between this condition and ED. This is because the single most important biological process that directly causes an erection is the widening of the blood vessels within the penis and increased blood inflow. Without sufficient blood, an erection would not be possible.

Men diagnosed with diabetes can have their arteries damaged to that extent that this function is compromised. This means that, despite the fact that there is sexual arousal and the nerves are healthy, the relevant blood vessels just cannot expand enough to let enough blood into the organ.

Can I do something to prevent ED if I have diabetes?

Yes. Living with diabetes doesn’t mean that you simply have to accept all the harms and risks the disease carries with it. In fact, diabetics know very well that their condition is manageable and that living with it means constantly fighting the effects and keeping your everyday life as unaffected as possible. The same goes for diabetes-caused ED.

The most general preventive practices are virtually the same as advice given to diabetics in general. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Regular physical exercise
  • Maintaining or reaching optimal body weight
  • Avoiding tobacco and alcohol use

In this way, and with proper diabetes treatment, you can keep your condition under control. With enough care, at least at a younger age, it will be possible to keep your blood vessels healthy enough so you don’t experience any severe difficulties with gaining or maintaining an erection.

What if I already have ED problems and diabetes?

Whether it’s old age and the subsequent accumulation or damage, lack of attention on your side or just simple severity of diabetes, there are situations in which preventive practices simply won’t work as the problem is already there. But, don’t worry, all is not lost – you can still have a perfectly normal sex life, although it would take some effort and planning.

Usually recommended solutions to this issue vary from one person to another, and they include:

  • Oral medications (impotence pills)
  • Other medications (inserted into the tip of the penis before sex)
  • Vacuum-constriction device

Can Viagra help?

Viagra belongs to a class of pharmaceutical compounds called PDE-5 inhibitors that are commonly and successfully used for ED treatment. They rely on a unique mechanism of action that involves inhibiting the action of phosphodiesterase enzyme type 5 (PDE-5) in order to ensure the prevalence of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), a compound that plays a crucial role in widening the blood vessels within the penis.

For most of those affected by diabetes, using Viagra or some other PDE-5 inhibitor such as Cialis, Levitra or Spedra, should be enough, but the efficiency of the treatment will still largely depend on the extent of the damage on blood vessels. As all of the above-mentioned medicines can be bought only with a prescription, you will have to undergo consultations with a medical professional anyways, so he will give you the most precise information about which medicine should you use and what can you expect.


  1. American Diabetes Association Journal – Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction
  2. The Global Diabetes Community – Diabetes and ED
  3. Advanced Urological Care P.C. – Diabetes and ED discussed by Dr. Francois Eid